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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Samurai Rising

bk_samuraiSamurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds
February 2016, Charlesbridge
Reviewed from a final copy

Here’s my first nonfiction title of the year, coming to us from back in February! We’ve got four stars, some love in the comments of our original list post — and who doesn’t love history? (I mean, maybe not the peasants burninating in the countryside at the time, probably. They might have argued that history sucked.) Turner’s title is an intriguing example of narrative nonfiction. With so few sources, with so little to really go on historically speaking, Turner manages to fill in with a lot of details, related research, and intelligent guesswork. She paints a vivid picture adding in details to set the scene — blacking teeth, Samurai training, armor, and other aspects of life in feudal Japan. [Read more…]

Highly Illogical Behavior

Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley
Dial Books, May 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Humans expect a lot from each other. We like to think that we’re autonomous beings, when in reality, our choices are frequently motivated and influenced by others. In John Corey Whaley’s latest novel, he once again explores the interplay between a teen boy, his parents, and two friends (one guy, one girl). Although the title, with its nod to a certain Vulcan, may suggest science-fiction to some of you nerds out there (and I mean me), Highly Illogical Behavior is firmly grounded in the reality of human relationships; specifically, what happens when the fulfillment of one person’s ambitions or needs means the suppression of another’s.

[Read more…]

Rebel of the Sands

rebel

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Viking, March 2016
Reviewed from a final copy

OK, I’m a day late with this review because, well, I wanted to talk about this book and then I wasn’t sure if I ought to talk about this book, but I just wanted to keep thinking about this book and it was distracting me from the other books I was considering writing up this week. And basically, if we’re going to move past this week and get this review up, we’re just going to have to push our way through this review all together. 

To actually talk about Rebel: this is a title with three stars. We didn’t include it in our original official nomination list. It’s a debut title, and it’s also the start of a new series (and series books and the Printz don’t always work well together, although Morris has had some love for that). All of this may mean I’ll be talking to myself here. But I’ve got things to work out, and a blog, and, uh, I’m all out of bubblegum. Or something. [Read more…]

Draw the Line

Draw the Line, Laurent Linn
Margaret K. McElderry Books, May 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Some books remind me that there is much I don’t know about the world. I’ve been very lucky that my personal life has never been touched by a violent hate crime. In Laurent Linn’s Draw the Line, Adrian Piper is a gay teen who regularly hears homophobic slurs in the hallways of his school. He chooses to keep his sexual orientation hidden from everyone but his closest friends, in the hope that he’ll be invisible to the bullies who routinely harass an openly gay classmate. Accuracy is an important Printz criteria, so early on in my reading of this novel, I spent a lot of time thinking about if and how the plot works as a reflection of real life.
[Read more…]

When Good Authors Go Bad

Ok, I confess: the title of this post is mostly clickbait. I’m too much of a libra (and librarian) to be able to call these books anything as absolute as “bad.” The less clickbait, more classic title could be: In which the reader is disappointed in not one but two four-star books, by authors she has previously loved, and is left wondering if the fault is hers or the authors’.

[Read more…]

The Serpent King

serpent-kingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
March 2016, Random House
Reviewed from an ARC

This is a three star title, and had some conversation in the comments of our initial list post. Of course, I’m unable to say definitively whether or not it’s at the table for RealCommittee, but I’m always intrigued by religious themed (or even slightly religious flavored) fiction for teens. I ought to specify here, this isn’t inspirational fiction, or really even Christian fiction, although it is partially fiction about one Christian’s experience; it’s more a contemplative study about living with religion (at least as far as Dill is concerned). In addition, this is a snapshot of teens living in a small town setting (hey, since I also reviewed Exit, is this an official trend? j/k) which is not always something that makes it into my reading pile. So I’m pretty pumped to talk about this title, and I wonder how far it will go at the table. [Read more…]

Essential Maps for the Lost

Essential Maps for the Lost, Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse, April 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Girl meets boy. Boy loves girl.

Well actually, girl finds the boy’s dead mother in a lake first.

This isn’t your typical love story with a slice of grief. Deb Caletti hits all the targets for a melancholy teen romance without being redundant. Depression? Yup, but it’s done convincingly and without damaging inaccuracies. Secrets? Oh yeah. Big ones. Internal and external obstacles in our couple’s way? The aforementioned deceased mother.

Essential Maps does all the things that this kind of novel should do well with aplomb and style. For this, Caletti has earned three starred reviews. Every year I beat the drum for straight-up romance to be taken seriously when it comes to awards (and occasionally, I get my wish). Although I probably won’t set my cap at this “prince” for the Printz, it has many praise- and noteworthy qualities.
[Read more…]

Symptoms of Being Human, Take 2

Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin
Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), February 2016
Reviewed from final e-book

Despite the title, this is probably more like take 4. This is somehow a hard review to write. I keep slipping away from the book itself and into all the things that surround this book: the importance of representation and mirrors in YA lit; the long history of binary systems in human thought and the way interstitial anything creates anxiety (there may be a thesis in my past about cross-dressing in Shakespeare and Marlowe and how actually social transgressions are usually more condemned than sexual transgressions, and as a result of that thesis I may have read a lot about binaries and sexuality and gender at various points in my life). The earlier draft went into #weneeddiversebooks and gatekeepers, collection development, the fact that the author of this book is a cis-het white male, and a host of other things.

But none of that is really getting at the purpose here, which is to assess a book as a literary object. Which is not to say that none of it has bearing — but when I hit 1,000 words and was still on the issues around the text, I decided to start over. So here we go again: Symptoms of Being Human — Printz worthy or not? [Read more…]

Burn Baby Burn

burn-baby-burnBurn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
Candlewick, March 2016
Reviewed from an ARC

Can I rave for a minute? What a title! And what a cover, too. Medina manages to blend a lot of elements beautifully and smoothly. With four stars and a place on the NBA longlist, this read has a lot going for it. And a lot of people rooting for it — there’s a lot of love from all of us here; it was mentioned as an early frontrunner in the comments. But the sparkles of a disco ball can be very forgiving; in the harsh light of the Printz criteria, how well does it stand up to all the love? [Read more…]

When previously awarded writers tell other tales

When we start to compile our list of books to cover, authors who have a previous Printz win or honor are automatically added to the list. We also give serious consideration to writers with wins or honors from other important ALA Youth Media Awards. Of course, the logic is that a previous winner has a good chance of continuing to create work at a high level.

Today’s contenders come to us in slightly different form than the author’s previous work. Unlike her Printz and Caledcott honor book, This One Summer, Mariko Tamaki’s Saving Montgomery Sole is a prose novel. The Great American Whatever is Tim Federle’s first YA novel—his middle grade series, Better Nate Than Ever has earned him a Stonewall and Odyssey nomination as well as a Lambda literary award. Both Tamaki and Federle use themes present in their other books, but do they also use the qualities that earned them praise?
[Read more…]